“Saucy, sassy, and smart.”—New York Times bestselling author Nancy Atherton
“Suspenseful, intelligent mysteries with a sense of humor.”—New York Times bestselling author Miranda James
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Bibliophile Mysteries and A High-End Finish comes the second Fixer-Upper Mystery...
Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another/i>/i>
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Bibliophile Mysteries and A High-End Finish comes the second Fixer-Upper Mystery...
Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another story....
Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while Shannon is delighted to be friends with not one but two handsome men, not everyone in town is feeling the love. After her elderly neighbor Jesse Hennessey fails to make his daily appearance at the local diner, Shannon swings by his place to check on him. Not only does she find Jesse dead—of an apparent heart attack—but she also realizes that his home has been ransacked.
Someone suggests that a thief was searching for a priceless necklace Jesse claimed to have retrieved from a capsized sailing ship, but Shannon doesn’t believe it. Everyone knows Jesse had a penchant for constructing tall tales—like the one about him having a hot new girlfriend. But his death is soon ruled a homicide, and shady suspects begin popping out of the woodwork. When another victim turns up dead, Shannon is convinced she must find the killer before someone else gets nailed....
“Saucy, sassy, and smart.”—New York Times bestselling author Nancy Atherton
“Suspenseful, intelligent mysteries with a sense of humor.”—New York Times bestselling author Miranda James
PRAISE FOR KATE CARLISLE’S FIXER-UPPER MYSTERIES
OTHER BOOKS BY KATE CARLISLE
“It’s a monstrosity, isn’t it?”
I gazed at the massive structure before us and hid my dismay with a bland smile. “No, not at all. It’s . . . beautiful. In its own way.”
“You’re a terrible liar, Shannon,” my friend Emily Rose said. “But I appreciate your attempt to make me feel better.”
We both stared at the three-story multigabled, overspindled, gingerbread-laden . . . monstrosity—there was no better word for it—she’d just purchased. The old Victorian house was shrouded in shadows, making it appear even more forebidding than it might’ve been if even a smidgen of sunlight had been allowed to peep through the thick copse of soaring eucalyptus and redwood that surrounded the place on three sides. This wasn’t the time to mention it, but I planned to suggest a good tree trimming once Emily closed the deal.
“What have I done?” Emily moaned softly. Her soft Scottish accent was thicker than usual, probably because of the stress of deciding to buy a house and then doing so in less than two days.
To be honest, the place was magnificent—if you overlooked the obvious: peeling paint, broken shutters, slumping roof. All of that was cosmetic and could be magically transformed by a good contractor. Luckily for Emily, that was me. I’m Shannon Hammer, a building contractor specializing in Victorian home renovation and repair. I took over Hammer Construction Company five years ago when my dad suffered a mild heart attack and decided to retire. I had grown up working on the grand Victorian homes that proliferated along this part of the Northern California coastline, and I couldn’t wait to get started on Emily’s.
For many years, Emily had been living in the small but pretty apartment above the Scottish Rose Tea Shoppe she owned on the town square in the heart of Lighthouse Cove. Over the last few years, though, the square, with its multitude of fabulous restaurants and charming shops, had become such a popular destination spot that she’d decided it was time to find a quieter place to live. When an uncle back in Scotland had died and left her some money, Emily decided that with property values being what they were, now was a good time to buy her first home.
She had announced her major purchase earlier today, after gathering together our small circle of friends in the back room of her tea shop. We met there regularly because it was so convenient. Lizzie Logan’s stationery shop was just a few doors down, and her husband, Hal, was always willing to man the register when she needed some girl time. Jane Hennessey, my best friend since kindergarten, could walk over from her place two blocks away. Marigold Starling’s Crafts and Quilts shop was a quick stroll across the square. My house was close enough that I could walk to the tea shop, too, on the days I did paperwork at home. More often, I drove in from one of the construction sites, careful to slap off as much sawdust as possible before I entered the ultrafeminine domain.
“Champagne?” I’d said when I walked in and saw the yummy spread and the expensive open bottle in Emily’s hand. “What’s the occasion?”
“You’re getting married!” Lizzie said, clapping her hands. She was the only married one in our group, so she continually pushed the rest of us to find a guy and pair up. She persisted in matchmaking despite some rather deadly recent results.
“I’d have told you if I were dating,” Emily assured her. “I’m not.”
Without missing a beat, Lizzie said, “Did somebody die?”
Jane laughed. “I don’t think we’d be drinking champagne if somebody died.”
“Are you sure?” Lizzie whispered. “Maybe that’s how they do it in Scotland.”
Emily, clearly excited, had shushed everyone and held up her glass. “I want to propose a toast to the town’s newest homeowner. Me.”
“You bought a house?” I said, a little stunned that I hadn’t heard. I liked to think I had my fingers on the pulse of the housing market in Lighthouse Cove, but Emily’s purchase had slipped past me.
“Cheers!” Marigold cried, clinking her glass against Emily’s.
Lizzie gave her a quick hug. “That’s fabulous.”
“Welcome to the wonderful world of homeownership,” Jane said, herself the owner of a B-and-B I’d recently finished renovating.
“Yes, congratulations,” I said. “You managed to shock me. I had no idea you were house hunting.”
Emily took another sip of champagne before placing her glass down on the table. “I figured it was about time I set down roots in Lighthouse Cove.”
“You think so?” Marigold said, laughing. “You’ve only lived here for fifteen years.”
She grinned. “I’m a thrifty Scotswoman. It takes me a while to part with money.”
Emily had moved here from Scotland all those years ago with her boyfriend, who was going into business with one of our local fishermen. Sadly, a year later, the boyfriend mysteriously disappeared and was presumed lost at sea. Emily was devastated but decided to stay in Lighthouse Cove. She had only recently opened her tea shop and had a few good close friends who saw her through the tragedy.
“Where’s the house?” I asked.
“It’s over on Emerald Way,” she said. “Overlooking North Bay.”
I could picture the neighborhood with its glorious pine trees and amazing view of the coast. I’d worked on a number of homes in that area, and as far as I could remember, there was only one available house and it was . . . whoa. “You bought the old Rawley Mansion?”
“Yes,” Emily said, and paused to pat her chest. “I get a little breathless when I think about it. I can’t wait for you all to see it.”
I exchanged a look of concern with Jane and knew she was recalling the Halloween night when we were seven years old and I had dared her to look in one of the windows on the Rawleys’ front porch. She took the dare, but after one quick peek, she screamed and ran away. I wasn’t smart enough to follow but instead peeked inside myself and saw a beautiful woman with golden hair wearing an old-fashioned dress, sitting at a desk near the window, crying. She looked up and her smile was so sad, I wanted to cry too. I touched the glass, reaching out—until I realized I could see right through her. She was a ghost!
For years, I’d been convincing myself that it was just a silly Halloween trick. What else could it be? I quickly covered my unease with a happy smile. “If you need any help with renovation or with the move itself, I’m available.”
“We’ll all help,” Jane said.
“Thank you. That means so much.” Emily blinked, overcome with emotion. “And yes, Shannon, I would love your help with the rehab. It needs a lot of work,” she admitted, “but I had to have this house. I can’t explain it, but it spoke to me. It’s going to look like a fairy castle when it’s all spiffed up. I can’t wait to move in.”
“When do you close escrow?” Lizzie asked.
“Since nobody’s living there, I was able to get a fifteen-day escrow.”
“Good grief, that’s fast,” Marigold murmured. She had left her Amish community years ago but still preferred to live at a slower pace than the rest of us.
Lizzie nodded. “The faster she closes the deal, the faster Shannon can get started on the rehab.”
“Well, then.” Jane raised her glass again. “Here’s to Emily’s castle.”
“May all your dreams come true,” Lizzie said fondly, and we drank down the rest of the sparkly champagne.
Now, as I gazed up at the old house, I knew Emily really needed help. Still, the place had good bones, and that was what counted. Right?
At the thought of good bones, I shivered. I wondered if Emily had heard the tales of old Grandma Rawley’s ghost still haunting the place. It didn’t matter. All those scary stories were just silly urban legends and tricks, meant to frighten small children on Halloween. Weren’t they?
I brushed those thoughts aside. Everything would be fine. There was no such thing as ghosts. I repeated the mantra as I studied how the roof rolled and dipped in spots.
Emily’s delicate features registered doubt as the sun slipped behind a cloud and the house grew even darker. “Perhaps I exaggerated a bit, thinking you might be able to turn it into a fairy castle.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll make it beautiful for you,” I assured her, and I meant it. Making Victorian homes look beautiful was my business, after all.
Years ago, our town had been designated a national historical landmark because of all the Victorian-era homes and buildings located here. The Rawley Mansion had once been a gorgeous example of that nineteenth-century Victorian style, before the last Rawley heir died and their gracious home was left to rot. But it didn’t have to stay that way. Within a few months, my crew and I would restore it to its original luster and this shadowy eyesore before us would be a vague memory.
“Thank you, Shannon.” She slung her arm around my shoulders and gave me a quick squeeze. “If anyone can do it, you can.”
“Never doubt it.”
She laughed. “I did for a while, but now I must admit I’m starting to get excited.”
“I don’t blame you. The house is amazing.”
She looked up at the imposing structure. “Or it soon will be.”
It really was amazing—if you had the vision to see past its dilapidated exterior.
It was a classic Queen Anne Victorian, but with one eclectic detail that must’ve suited the original owner’s idiosyncratic style. The rounded, three-story tower on the left front side of the house was topped by what they used to call a Hindustani roof. Instead of the typical tower roof that came to a point like a witch’s hat, this one’s undulating profile resembled a large bell. It sat atop a small, round balcony roomy enough for a table and two chairs. Emily said it would be the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset.
The rest of the home was more traditional, with a deep-shadowed entrance framed by elaborate ornamentation, asymmetrical rooflines, a wraparound porch, fish-scale shingles on the lower half of the house, and four chimneys.
On the downside, a number of the balusters were rotted or simply missing from the porch railing. The stained glass on the door was cracked and faded. Externally, the ravages of time, termites, overgrown plants, and stiff ocean breezes were obvious. Internally, anything was possible. A family of raccoons could’ve taken up residence. Wooden floors could be rotted clean through. Pipes might be fractured. I just prayed I wouldn’t have to rebuild the whole thing from scratch.
I dismissed those thoughts. Why invite trouble? In two weeks when escrow closed and Emily took possession of the house, she and I would conduct a thorough walk-through to determine exactly what the rehab would entail. It all depended on the amount of work, of course, but I estimated that she would be able to move in within three to four months. I had a feeling that that would be cutting it close—like, by a year maybe—but for one of my dearest friends, I was determined to make the timing work. I was already mentally rearranging my crew’s schedules. Emily’s monstrosity was now at the top of my long priority list.
I wanted her new home to be spiffed up, as she put it, in record time.
“Looking on the bright side,” she said with a cheerful grin, “at least there won’t be any dead bodies in the basement. I checked.”
I swallowed uneasily. “That’s good to know.” A few months ago, I had come across that very thing. A man had been murdered in the basement of a home I’d been refurbishing. I was the one who had discovered the body, and our new chief of police had not been amused. For a short while, my name was at the top of his suspect list, until the killer decided to focus on me. I never wanted to go through anything like that again.
“I’d better be getting back to the tea shop,” Emily said with reluctance, her simple dark ponytail swaying as she turned to walk to her car. “I really appreciate your coming out here to take a look with me.”
“I’m glad I did. I can’t wait to get started.” But as I opened the car door, I took one more look at the old Rawley Mansion and shivered.
I had a sinking feeling that raccoons would be the least of her problems.
* * *
Two weeks later, I arose early, threw on old jeans, a sweatshirt and tennies, and left the house to meet my dad for breakfast. I’d made it as far as the sidewalk before I woke up enough to realize that Lighthouse Cove was enveloped in a gray fog so thick I couldn’t see the house across the street. It was mid-January on the Northern California coast and I should’ve expected fog at the very least. I counted myself lucky that it wasn’t pouring rain. I jogged back inside to grab my quilted vest for an extra layer of warmth, pulled a warm knit cap over my unruly red hair, and set out again for the Cozy Cove Diner.
Anytime Dad and my uncle Pete were in town, they met for breakfast at the Cove to chitchat with friends and neighbors and catch up on town business. Meaning gossip, of course. My dad and uncle, like everyone else in our small town, thrived on gossip. And wouldn’t you know it? I always got the juiciest tidbits from those two men.
I rubbed my arms briskly to chase away the cold as I walked to the town square. Dad and Uncle Pete had just come home from a weeklong fishing trip at the Klamath River. They’d returned last night, dirty, exhausted, and happy to be back. Dad had parked his Winnebago in my driveway and dropped off six large, beautiful Chinook salmon for my freezer. It looked as though we’d be eating fish for the next few months. I wasn’t complaining.
While the two men sat at my dining room table enjoying a beer after their long drive, I had filled them in on the most current scuttlebutt around town: Emily’s purchase of the old Rawley Mansion; the latest round of infighting among the town’s Festival Committee members; MacKintyre Sullivan’s new book landing on the bestseller list. I promised to make homemade pizza for them sometime over the weekend since they’d called from the road to say they’d built up a powerful craving for pizza.
Odd cravings could happen when you hung out with a bunch of fishermen all week. Pizza was fairly normal, compared to some hankerings Dad had come up with in the past. The pizza request reminded me of some of his funny old sayings, or truisms, as he called them. One of his favorites went like this: building a house is like building a pizza. It took skill and artistry, the right tools, and strong wrists to pound nails into wood—or throw dough up in the air.
It wasn’t the smoothest of axioms, especially the part about artistry, but it worked for him.
The thing was, not only had Dad signed this house and his business over to me after he suffered that mild heart attack five years ago, he had also turned over to me his longtime ritual of making homemade pizza. Once the task was safely passed on to the next generation, namely me, he was lavish in his praise of my culinary abilities. Oh, I knew I made a good pizza, but he liked to lay it on thick because he never wanted to have to make one for himself again.
I pushed the diner door open and was greeted with shouts of welcome along with the savory smells of bacon and warm syrup. I suddenly craved something yummy, even though I’d promised myself a healthy bowl of oatmeal.
“Over here, honey,” Dad said, and scooted closer to the wall to make room for me in the booth he shared with Uncle Pete. Cindy the waitress arrived seconds later to pour a hot cup of coffee for me.
“Thanks, Cindy,” I said, smiling at her. Today her name tag handkerchief corsage was a lacy floral concoction, which covered half her chest. If they were handing out prizes at a waitress convention, Cindy would win the corsage-name-tag competition hands down.
“You know what you want, hon?”
“I’ll need a few seconds.” I frowned at her. “I had my mind made up until I came inside and smelled bacon.”
“Rocky’s French toast is excellent today,” she said with an evil wink before walking back to the front counter.
“Great,” I muttered. So much for my noble attempt to start the day with a healthy breakfast. Cindy knew my weaknesses and exploited them gleefully.
A minute later, she was back to take my order of French toast, a side of bacon, and a fruit bowl. The fruit bowl was my nod to healthiness. It was a pitiful little nod, but it was enough to let me enjoy the rest of my order without feeling too guilty.
While I drank my coffee, Dad and Uncle Pete filled me in on all the latest happenings around town. It was mystifying how two men could go away for a week and come back knowing so much more about my neighbors than I did.
“Have you seen Jesse lately?” Dad asked, referring to Jesse Hennessey, the man who’d been our next-door neighbor for almost as long as I’d been alive. Most mornings, Jesse could be found sitting at the end of the counter reading his paper and nursing the one blessed cup of coffee he was allowed to drink each day.
“Cindy says he hasn’t been in here in a few days,” Uncle Pete added.
I glanced at the counter where Jesse usually sat and realized I hadn’t seen him recently, either. “I hope he’s not sick.”
Uncle Pete wiggled his eyebrows. “Maybe he’s shacked up with his little sweetie.”
I almost choked on my coffee. “What’re you talking about? There’s no little sweetie shacked up at Jesse’s house.”
Pete shrugged. “So maybe he goes to her place.”
“We’re talking about Jesse, right? He doesn’t have a girlfriend,” I assured them. “I would know.”
“But he told us all about her,” Dad said. “She’s supposed to be a hottie.”
Good grief, Jesse Hennessey was seventy-seven years old. What was he doing with a hottie? “You know how he likes to embellish the truth. Maybe this is one of those times.”
“Could be,” Dad admitted. “I know he’s told some whoppers in his time.”
As I sipped my coffee, I started to feel a little less certain. “I guess he could be dating someone, but I’ve never seen another car next door. He rarely has visitors. I would notice.”
Uncle Pete shrugged again. “He’s a private guy. Might not want the neighbors talking.”
Private didn’t come close to describing my neighbor. Paranoid was more accurate. He’d always been a bit of a conspiracy theorist and Jane and I used to be amused when he’d claim that people were watching him. But in the last few years, I had to admit he’d grown to distrust everyone except for his niece Jane, who was one of my best friends. Especially when it came to business and money. I liked to think he trusted me, too, but he’d never introduced me to his hottie girlfriend—if the woman even existed, which I doubted. I would have to ask Jane about her.
“Shannon might be right, Pete,” Dad admitted. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Jesse was pulling our legs. He’s always liked the ladies well enough, but he likes his privacy more.”
Uncle Pete looked skeptical. “More than the ladies?”
Dad winked at me and I smiled. I knew how much he and Uncle Pete liked the ladies, too.
“So, who are we voting for in the mayor’s race?” Dad asked, changing topics radically.
I gave him my two cents, and the subject grew lively as the couple in the booth behind us joined in. Even Rocky the cook tossed out a few salty comments from the kitchen. Local politics had a way of energizing a room.
Uncle Pete abruptly switched topics again. “So, what’d you and your Festival Committee come up with for Valentine’s Day this year?”
I almost slid under the booth.
“Yeah, how’s that going?” Dad said. “I’m still gonna drive the Hammer Construction float, right?”
“Oh, you bet,” I said quickly. “Things are going great. No worries.” Seeing Cindy, I added gratefully, “Oh, look, here’s my breakfast.”
As Cindy unloaded three full plates in front of me, I flashed her a look of appreciation for helping me cut off that avenue of conversation.
Unfortunately she ignored my look. “Is that true, Shannon?” she said, her voice registering skepticism. “Because I heard that Whitney Gallagher and Jennifer Bailey demanded to join the committee.”
“Oh no,” Dad muttered.
“Yes.” Cindy nodded enthusiastically. “And I hear they’re causing all sorts of heartburn for y’all.”
From across the aisle, Mrs. Schuster gave me a sympathetic nod. “I heard a bunch of vendors dropped out and the festival is going to be a disaster.”
All conversation ceased as each person in the place turned to look at me. And herein lay the essential problem with small towns: everyone knew everyone else and we all thrived on gossip. We sucked it up like chocolate marshmallow cream on a hot fudge sundae. It was our lifeblood. And frankly, the more painful or scandalous the news, the more we slurped it up. And nothing was more painful to me than having to deal on a weekly basis with Whitney Reid Gallagher and her BFF, Jennifer Bailey, my worst enemies from high school.
The Festival Committee was headed by my friend Jane and I was her second-in-command. Two years ago, we had stepped up and volunteered to run the committee. It was a little scary putting ourselves out there, but we’d decided it was our turn to give back to our community. Luckily our good deed was rewarded and our eight-member team got along well. We’d been having a great time planning the parades and festivals and events that occurred every month in Lighthouse Cove, and each one had turned out better than the one before.
But a month ago, our luck had run out. Whitney and Jennifer had insisted on joining the committee. They’d heard it was fun. And it was. Until they joined. I truly believed that those two women thrived on draining every last ounce of joy the rest of us—especially me—had found working together.
And boy, that burned me up. You’d think that both women would be nicer to me after I saved their sorry butts a few months ago. They would both be goners—I’m talking dead—if not for me and my quick action. And while I hadn’t been sitting around waiting for the flowers and candy and maybe a thank-you note to arrive, I certainly hadn’t expected everything to go back to the same old rotten status quo. I was wrong, sadly. So now the entire committee had to suffer from their obnoxious presence. I blamed myself because it was clear that they were only here to torment me.
Fortunately it wasn’t just me who thought the two women were meanies. The others agreed. A good thing, too, because if I was the only one bothered by Whitney and Jennifer, I would’ve considered seeking professional help for my victim complex.
But no, the other women recognized that Whitney and Jennifer were there to make our lives miserable. The two newcomers questioned every decision and ridiculed every new idea. What made it worse was that the twosome had joined right before Christmas, which really put a damper on our holiday spirits. More recently they drove one of the women to tears after she suggested a Valentine fashion show for dogs and cats with prizes for each category. I thought it was a super idea and the perfect way to entertain the kids in attendance and many of the adults, too. Especially the ones with pets, like me. But Jennifer’s groans and Whitney’s eye rolls gave a clear indication of their opinion.
Once those two left the meeting, though, Jane assured the rest of us that the pet fashion show was a brilliant idea and would definitely go forward. Right then and there, we began brainstorming some funny categories and prizes for the show.
Jane ran into another problem when she was handing out assignments for the Valentine’s Day Festival. She’d asked Whitney and Jennifer to take charge of lining up vendors for the food booths. They had simply refused, claiming they were too busy shopping for Christmas presents. They weren’t too busy to complain, of course. Finally Jane was left with no choice but to insist that they resign from the committee, but they refused that, too! They just kept showing up week after week, annoying everyone with their negative vibe.
It didn’t make sense to any normal person. But then, their animosity toward me and the town in general had never made sense.
Jane had recently resorted to scheduling secret meetings with everyone on the committee attending except Whitney and Jennifer. We were finally able to get some work done and recapture the camaraderie and fun we’d had before the other two joined the group. Of course, we were forced to keep the meetings hush-hush for fear of reprisals. Nobody wanted to suffer the wrath of Whitney.
Naturally the entire town had heard about the committee’s discord, but so far, nobody had found out about the secret meetings. And they never would, if I could help it.
I pasted an innocent smile on my face and looked up at Cindy. “Yes, Whitney and Jennifer have joined the group and we’re all getting along great. This year’s Valentine’s Festival is going to be the best one ever.”
“So the bickering I’ve heard about is just an ugly rumor?” she persisted. “I’m not sure I believe that.”
“It’s true,” I said jovially, waving the idea away. “It was a little shaky at first, but now we’re all buddies.”
“Huh. Wonder where that rumor came from,” she muttered as she walked back to the kitchen.
Oh, I knew exactly where it came from, I thought, my teeth clenched in frustration. The mean girls themselves. But I continued to smile at everyone who was listening and they all smiled back with great relief. Nobody wanted the festival to be a disaster.
I finally gazed down at my breakfast of fluffy French toast drenched in syrup and butter, and bacon. Oh, and fruit. Pineapple chunks, blueberries, and strawberries, all made even better by the presence of syrup.
I should’ve been blissfully stuffing myself by now, dredging each thick, luscious bite through the melted goodness of syrup and butter. But I’d lost my appetite. I couldn’t even down my second cup of coffee. And for that alone, I would never forgive Whitney Gallagher and Jennifer Bailey.
* * *
An hour later, after assuring Dad and Uncle Pete that I wasn’t sick with some horrible stomach ailment that had caused me to lose interest in food, I headed home to get ready for work. I had a meeting with the Planning Commission at ten o’clock, so I would have to dress a little nicer today than usual. Not that I didn’t dress nicely all the time, but let’s face it. I worked on construction sites. Most of the time, my wardrobe choices weren’t complicated.
I walked down the driveway and through the back gate to my kitchen door. But then I hesitated, recalling Dad’s comment about Jesse. It wouldn’t hurt to check up on the old guy since I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen him. Maybe three days ago? Four? I recalled glimpsing him out in his yard, kibitzing as usual with Mrs. Higgins from across the street. I remembered because I had just come back from Emily’s, where we’d looked through home magazines together so I could get an idea of what she wanted for her new house. Her closing was this coming week. Two weeks had passed in a hurry.
What if Jesse had been sick for the last few days? The least I could do was find out if he needed a ride to the doctor. Or I could offer to deliver an emergency quart of chicken soup from the diner.
I changed direction and headed next door to his place. Jesse’s house was one of the smaller ones on the street, a blue-and-white, one-and-a-half-story Victorian with the prototypical pitched roof and wide porch, but it featured a charming white-railed widow’s walk that was accessed by climbing out the attic window. Jesse had always talked about turning the attic into his version of a man cave, but he hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
His place had grown a little shabby around the edges over the years and I’d repeatedly offered to spruce it up for him, to no avail. Once in a while when I was mowing my lawn, I would go next door and clean up his yard, but it needed a lot more help than that. The front porch was begging for a paint job, and one of the dining room shutters had been missing a few slats for the longest time. Maybe I’d sneak over and fix a few things as a favor to him, especially if he was sick. I could certainly mow his lawn again because it was getting shaggier by the minute.
I knocked on the front door and waited. After a minute, I knocked again. I really hoped he was feeling okay. The old man was crotchety, set in his ways, and had a tendency to tell huge, whopping fibs—or tall tales, as he called them—but I adored him. He’d never married or had children, but he’d always been close to his niece, my friend Jane.
I knocked once more, louder this time, because Jesse seemed to be getting a little deaf. For good measure, I shouted, “Jesse, are you here?”
After another full minute, I took the hint. He obviously wasn’t in there. I headed for home, but as I stuck my key into the kitchen door lock, my conscience wouldn’t let me relax. What if Jesse was inside the house, sick or in pain? What if he’d fallen down and couldn’t reach the telephone or the front door? Darn it, I couldn’t walk away without making sure he was all right.
“He won’t thank me for this,” I muttered, but my decision was made.
Years ago, after a house down the street caught on fire, my father and a few of our neighbors had exchanged house keys to use in case of future emergencies. Dad kept them all on a key ring in the kitchen “junk drawer.” Even though he had moved out of the house and into his RV five years ago, I’d never cleaned out that drawer. It was impossible to throw some of those things away because you just never knew.
Pushing aside a stack of yellowed appliance catalogs, an old tape measure, and a dried-up tube of superglue—okay, I definitely needed to clean out this drawer—I found the key ring. Happily most of the keys had small, round descriptive tags attached, so I checked until I found the key that was tagged JESSE’S PLACE.
I jogged back to his house and unlocked the front door, feeling a momentary pang of guilt for invading his privacy. I knew he would hate having anyone walk into his house without his permission, but what could I do?
“It’s for your own good,” I said under my breath. Later, I planned to lecture him on keeping in better touch with his neighbors.
The house was dark and quiet. It was musty, too, from being closed up for a while. I was tempted to open some windows, but I figured that would be going a little too far.
“Hello, Jesse? Are you here?”
There was no response, and to be honest, I didn’t feel his presence in the house. So maybe he’d gone away for the week. But he’d always told me when he was going anywhere for any length of time so I’d be sure to keep an eye on his house.
Even though I didn’t feel his presence—and didn’t that make me sound like some psychic nut job?—I was still determined to check all the rooms. If he wasn’t home, fine. But what if he’d fallen and couldn’t get up? I needed to make sure.
From the foyer, I turned left and tiptoed down the hall to the last room on the right, which I knew was his bedroom. On the way, I took a quick peek inside the other two bedrooms—one of which was his office—to check for him. By the time I reached his bedroom, I was sorry I’d been so eager to find him. Every room was a mess, with dresser drawers opened and clothing tossed everywhere. Even the sheets on the bed had been dragged off and were lying on the floor.
His office was a disaster, too, with the rug pushed back against the wall and the contents of his desk drawers emptied onto the hardwood floor. I had to watch where I stepped to avoid slipping on something. Had he been searching for something? He must’ve been in one heck of a hurry to leave things scattered everywhere without picking it all up.
I’d visited him countless times over the years and I’d never seen anything like this. Jesse was like an uncle to me and he was one of my father’s closest friends. We used to get together all the time for barbecues and neighborhood parties. He didn’t go in for grilling much; he generally left that manly chore to my dad. But whenever it got cold and damp, Jesse would whip up a batch of his world-famous chili or, on the rare occasion, a big, rich chicken stew. Both were his specialties, and he’d invite the whole block over for a bowlful, served with his delicious corn bread muffins.
On those occasions, his rooms were as neat and clean as could be. Jesse had spent much of his adult life in the navy until he retired almost twenty years ago, so to say he kept things shipshape around here was an understatement.
But as I looked around now, the only ship this place brought to mind was the Titanic. I didn’t realize what a slob he’d turned into.
I felt instantly guilty for thinking those thoughts. Maybe I wasn’t being fair. Maybe he’d grown depressed lately. That possibility broke my heart, but it could explain the mess. I made a mental note to call Jane as soon as I got home to see if there was some way to help him get through this bad patch.
I returned to the foyer and turned left to go to the kitchen. “Jesse? Are you here?”
He wasn’t. But there was more of the same disarray in this room, with drawers pulled open and utensils and kitchen gadgets strewn across the counters and the floor. Cupboard doors were open, the contents shoved to the side or swept haphazardly onto the floor.
I scowled at the mess. Something was really wrong. If this was a sign of depression, Jesse needed help immediately.
But Jesse wasn’t depressed; I knew it in my gut. It wasn’t in his nature. No, this mess looked more like a desperate hunt to find something and he didn’t care if he left a disaster in his wake.
“Jesse?” I called again, more urgently this time. I headed for the small den off the kitchen, where he liked to watch television. And that was where I found him. He was sound asleep on the couch with one arm dangling over the edge.
“Jesse!” I hurried across the room, so filled with relief that I forgot about the mess and everything else. “Thank goodness you’re here. Don’t be mad that I came into your house, but I was worried.”
There was no reaction. The man could sleep like the dead, I thought. The way he’d torn his home apart, I had to wonder if he was simply exhausted. Old people could do some weird things sometimes. I recalled my grandmother going off on all sorts of oddball tangents before she’d died, once tearing up a scrapbook filled with old photographs, and another time bingeing on jars of jalapeño pickles.
I studied Jesse’s face and wondered if maybe he was sick after all, because he looked pale, almost gray.
“Jesse?” I knelt down beside the couch and touched his forehead to make sure he wasn’t feverish.
On the contrary, his skin was cool. And no wonder, since the poor guy was wearing a pair of tidy white cotton boxer shorts and nothing else.
“Come on, Jesse, wake up.” I reached for the afghan draped over the back of the couch and covered him up to give him a little dignity. I lifted his arm onto the couch and tucked the edges of the blanket under him to warm him up.
“Jesse,” I said softly, shaking his shoulder lightly. “Can I get you some soup or something?”
His arm slid off the couch again. And I suddenly realized why.
“Oh, jeez!” I scooted backward, away from him, scrambling to my feet as I shouted his name over and over again. “Jesse! Oh my God! Jesse!”
It didn’t do any good. He wasn’t going to wake up.
Jesse Hennessey was dead.
I huddled outside on the porch, shaking my head and trembling in disbelief and sadness, not only because Jesse was dead, but also because I’d stupidly approached him as though he were merely sleeping or passed out. I should’ve known something was horribly wrong when I first saw the disarray throughout his house.
Jesse was gone. My eyes filled with tears and I sank into an old chair by the front door, rocking back and forth with my arms wrapped around my stomach. So many emotions were coursing through me, I couldn’t think straight. I was sad, of course. Numb. Shocked. He’d been my next-door neighbor for my entire life, and even if I didn’t see him every day, it was comforting to know that I had someone dependable and brave right next door when I needed him. He was raunchy sometimes and terribly corny. He told the world’s worst jokes. Jane and I used to laugh and groan at the same time when he would start in on his puns. I could still picture him a few months ago, standing in his front yard with weeds growing all around him.
“What are you doing, Jesse?” I’d asked.
“I’m out standing in my field.”
I frowned at him.
“Get it?” he’d said, grinning like an idiot.
Staring at him on the couch a few minutes ago, I’d started to laugh despite the tears rolling down my cheeks. “Oh, Jesse,” I whispered. “What happened to you?”
Jane would be here any minute. Would she blame me for his death? Not that I’d caused it or anything, but maybe I could’ve prevented it if I’d been a better neighbor.
I buried my head in my hands. Oh God, I was a horrible neighbor. I should’ve checked in on him every day. He wasn’t getting any younger and old people had a tendency to, you know, get old.
Okay, I needed to stop beating myself up. Jesse had always been fiercely independent and had never appreciated anyone hovering over him or worrying about him. Even Jane, his only living relative and the one person he loved most in the world, had been lectured more than once. “Don’t worry about me,” he often told her when she tried to coddle him a little. “I’m going to live to be a hundred because only the good die young.”
I should’ve ignored his gruff words and gone ahead and paid more attention to his health and his lifestyle. If I’d been more diligent, made sure he was safe and in good physical shape, he might still be alive.
I heard a siren blast from several blocks away, reminding me that I’d called the police right after talking to Jane. What else could I do? Once I realized that Jesse was dead, I’d immediately wondered about that mess in there. I knew it wasn’t normal for Jesse to tear his house apart like that. I wondered if someone else had broken in and done it. The police would be able to determine that, I hoped.
The thought of someone breaking into Jesse’s house to rob him after he was dead made me shudder with revulsion. But even worse, what if someone had broken in while he was still alive and scared him to death?
Could something like that have taken place right next door to me without my even knowing about it? I’d like to think I’d hear something or get some kind of strong vibe about it, seeing as how I had gone through such a horrible time a few short months ago.
Maybe that was why my mind was suddenly spinning with thoughts of murder. But there was no way Jesse could’ve been murdered, because . . . well, just because.
Because things like that didn’t happen in Lighthouse Cove. Okay, maybe that one bizarre stretch a few months back, but not on a regular basis. It was crazy to even consider.
Burglaries, yes. We had our share of them, every once in a great while. But why would anyone want to burglarize Jesse’s home? He owned nothing of real value. He’d lived nicely on Social Security and his military pension for the last ten years. Everyone in Lighthouse Cove knew it. Not that I would ever accuse one of my own townspeople. No, it must have been a stranger. But really? A stranger just happened to be passing through town and picked Jesse’s home to break into? What were the chances?
“Slim to none,” I murmured.
So maybe the mess really had been caused by Jesse himself. Maybe he had lost something important and gone on a tear. Or maybe some medication he’d been taking got screwed up and he’d gone a little crazy. Anything could’ve happened. It would be up to the police to figure it all out. They might find fingerprints that would lead them to conclude that a burglary had taken place.
I swept those thoughts away and concentrated on Jesse himself. It was hard to believe he was dead. I’d known him all my life and all of a sudden he was gone? It didn’t seem fair. He might’ve been getting old, but he’d had plenty of good years left.
I pictured myself talking to him a few minutes ago, tucking that afghan blanket over him, worried that he might have a fever. Then realizing he was dead.
I groaned out loud.
“What a twit you are.” Jane would laugh her ass off when I got around to telling her. That wouldn’t be anytime soon, of course. I imagined she wouldn’t be ready to laugh for a while yet. And I wasn’t too anxious to reveal what a major bozo I could be, even to my best pal.
But it wasn’t about me, I reminded myself sternly. Jesse was gone and poor Jane would be grieving. Okay, I was, too, but it was time to brush my feelings aside and concentrate on Jane. She would need every ounce of help and support I could give her to get through this.
I sat back in the old wicker chair to wait for everyone to arrive. I thought of Jesse again and how he’d looked so peaceful, lying there on the couch. Was it any wonder why I didn’t figure it out right away? He must’ve died recently, too. Otherwise there would’ve been some sort of . . . well, deterioration, to put it nicely. But other than that slightly gray pall to his skin, he really did look as if he’d been sleeping. I hated to think what might’ve happened if I hadn’t found him for another week.
I grimaced and rubbed my stomach. I really didn’t need to focus on what he might’ve looked like after a few more days.
The police siren wailed again, interrupting my odd thoughts, thank goodness. Within seconds, the police chief’s black-and-white SUV screeched to a stop in front of Jesse’s house just as Jane pulled up in her car and parked across the street. I could tell she was crying as she slammed the car door behind her. In seconds, she was up the front stairs, and I was standing up to grab her in a tight hug.
“It can’t be true,” she said, sobbing. “I can’t believe it.”
“I’m sorry,” I murmured, rubbing her back. Jane and Jesse had been really close. Each had been the other’s only family. But Jane had me, too, and I’d remind her of that soon. “I’m so sorry.”
“What happened?” she asked, swiping at the river of tears coursing down her cheeks.
“I don’t know. I was concerned that I hadn’t seen him around, so I decided to check on him. He didn’t answer the door, so I used our emergency key and let myself in. I found him in the back den.”
She let out a little sob. “That’s where he always watches TV.”
“I know, sweetie.” I realized that the TV hadn’t been on when I found him.
Jane buried her face against my shoulder and I held her fiercely. Jesse was Jane’s last living relative and now he was gone. I felt my own tears well up again as I contemplated what I would do if I lost my dad or Uncle Pete. It was too awful to think about.
“Jane,” a husky voice said from behind us. I opened my eyes and saw Police Chief Eric Jensen standing on the steps leading to the porch. Despite the horrid circumstances, I felt a weight lift from my chest at seeing him. He was a good guy to have around. Solid.
I let go of Jane and she turned. “Oh, Eric.”
He stepped onto the porch and held out his arms, and I felt more of my own tears erupt as Jane rushed into his embrace.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Over Jane’s shoulder, Eric’s straightforward gaze met mine. I watched his jaw clench and could only imagine what he was thinking. Something along the lines of Why does Shannon Hammer keep finding dead bodies in my town?
Funny, I was asking myself that same question. It hadn’t been long ago that I discovered that body in the basement of the old Victorian home I’d been working on. At the time, Eric had been new in town and his first inclination was to arrest me for murder, simply because I’d been overheard threatening the dead guy only a few days before his body was found. It was a dumb thing to do—threaten him, I mean—but anyone who knew me would know that I hadn’t meant it literally. Unfortunately Eric didn’t know me back then.
He knew me now, though, and I considered him a good friend. I wanted him to like me. I prayed he wouldn’t jump to that same conclusion this time around. And why would he? Jesse appeared to have succumbed to a heart attack or something equally benign—if a cause of death could ever be considered benign. There was no reason for anyone to assume anything else—except for the minor fact that I’d spent the last twenty minutes assuming that very thing. That foul play might have occurred and Jesse’s death had been the result.
I was already mentally lining up my alibis and excuses for being inside Jesse’s house. Inwardly I winced. I couldn’t help it. The thought of being interrogated by Eric again gave me shivers, and not in a good way. I shook my head briskly, hoping to fling those fears away. The only thing the police needed to know about me and Jesse was that he had been my neighbor since I was a little girl and we’d been great friends. I was devastated by his death.
Still, I had been the one who found his body. If Eric could prove that Jesse had died through some kind of foul play, didn’t that make me the most likely suspect in his eyes?
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I whispered. I was letting my imagination run out of control. It was time to wrestle it back into line.
Eric stepped away from Jane but kindly held her arms to steady her until she regained her equilibrium. I almost sighed out loud. He was a nice guy, and pretty darn gorgeous, if you liked that tall, hunky, muscular Nordic god sort of look. And who didn’t? I’d been mentally calling him Thor ever since we met. The name suited him, but he probably wouldn’t appreciate hearing it.
“Shannon,” Eric said, nodding at me.
“What happened here?”
“I was checking on Jesse. Nobody’s seen him around in a few days and I thought he might be sick. He didn’t answer his door so I went inside to look for him and found him . . . you know.”
“How’d you get inside?”
“We all have keys to each other’s houses,” I explained in a rush. “My neighbors, I mean. In case there’s an emergency. See, a long time ago, we saw smoke coming from the Robertsons’ upstairs bedroom and Dad broke down their front door to make sure they were okay. Well, it turned out they were fine, but after that we all decided to swap keys with each other to avoid having to break down doors. I keep the keys in my kitchen drawer, the one by the window. And oh my God, that doesn’t really matter, does it?”
I stopped talking abruptly. He didn’t need to know where the stupid junk drawer was. I tended to blather on and on when I was nervous. And I had no reason to be nervous, did I?
Eric coughed, probably to keep from laughing out loud at my idiotic chattering.
“Hey, Chief,” someone shouted from the sidewalk. It was Tommy Gallagher, my old high school boyfriend and the newly promoted deputy chief of police.
He jogged up the walkway and bounded up the steps to join us.
“Hey, Shannon,” he said heartily, and grabbed me in a quick hug.
“Hi, Tommy.” I’d known him forever and still thought he was pretty cute, but that wasn’t the only reason why I hugged him. No, he was happily married to Whitney Reid, the very same woman who had made my life hell all through high school and continued to do so on the Festival Committee. It was for her sake that I always gave Tommy a nice big hug and a kiss on the cheek when I saw him. I knew it was immature, especially at a moment like this, but it amazed me to know that her spying girlfriends liked to report back to her whenever they caught me anywhere near Tommy. According to Whitney’s girlfriends, I showed clear warning signs that I was out to steal him back from her. That couldn’t be further from the truth, of course, but Whitney still didn’t seem to realize that.
I figured it was Whitney’s own guilty conscience that made her so distrustful. Since she herself had stolen Tommy from me back in high school, it figured that I must be lying in wait, biding my time for the chance to take my revenge. It was laughable really. I’d gotten over Tommy’s betrayal ages ago and we were good friends now, much to Whitney’s disgust.
When he saw Jane, Tommy’s ever-present grin dimmed slightly. “Aw, hey, Jane. I’m really sorry to hear about Jesse. What a total bummer. If there’s anything I can do, you let me know.”
“Thanks, Tommy,” Jane said, giving him a light hug.
Eric took my arm and pulled me aside, out of Jane’s earshot. He leaned over and spoke quietly. “Where did you find Mr. Hennessey’s body?”
“In the room off the kitchen at the back of the house. It’s where he watched TV.”
“Did you call his doctor?”
“Not yet. I called Jane first and then decided to call the police because of what else I found in the house.”
His eyes narrowed. “What else did you find?”
“It’s probably easier if I show you.”
He stared at me for a long moment before he nodded toward the front door. “Okay, let’s see what you’re talking about.”
He turned and caught Tommy’s gaze. “You mind waiting out here with Jane?”
Jane looked affronted. “I appreciate your wanting to protect me, Eric, but it’s not necessary. I’m coming inside with you.”
Eric glanced at me as if it was my decision.
“He’s her uncle,” I said, frowning at him. “She’ll have to see him sometime.”
“Hello?” Jane said. “I’m standing right here.”
I smiled ruefully. “Sorry.”
She turned to the police chief. “And frankly, Eric, while I’m glad to see you, I’m not sure why Shannon called you anyway. I’m perfectly capable of contacting Uncle Jesse’s doctor to have him write out a death certificate.”
She started for the door, but I stepped in front of her, holding up my hand when she began to protest.
“Two things,” I said.
“First, I called the police because it’s a mess inside, so prepare yourself.”
She frowned. “Okay. What’s the second thing?”
“I’m here for you.”
Tears sprang to her eyes and she sniffled. “Damn it, Shannon. I know that.”
“Good.” I grabbed the door handle, pushed it open, and stepped inside. This time I ignored the chaos of the house and headed straight for the kitchen and the adjoining den, where I’d found Jesse’s body.
Behind me, I heard Jane’s murmurs of distress as she noted the disarray. Eric was, as always, stoic.
“Oh God,” Jane whispered as she approached her uncle. Kneeling on the floor next to him, she touched his cheek. “Oh, Uncle.”
Tommy, Eric, and I stood back by the door to give her some privacy. Eric glanced over his shoulder at the chaos in the kitchen and scowled. “Is this how it usually looks in here?”
“No,” I murmured. “That’s why I called you. The whole house has been torn apart.”
“Damn it,” he muttered.
“It could’ve been Jesse searching for something and getting carried away. But I don’t believe that. He’s always been a tidy guy.”
“Okay, let’s take a look.” Under his breath, he added, “Tom, stay with Jane.”
“You got it, boss.”
Jane didn’t notice we were leaving the room.
In the kitchen, I watched the chief walk around, studying the scene as he tried to avoid stepping on all the stuff that had been pulled out of the drawers and cupboards. After another minute he signaled that it was time to move on, so I accompanied him back to the foyer and told him to check out the bedrooms down the hall. I stayed where I was, not wanting to get depressed all over again.
After a bit of time, Eric returned, his expression sober. “You didn’t tell me someone punched a hole in the wall.”
“I didn’t see any holes.”
“There’s a big one behind the door in the back bedroom. It goes right through the layer of lath and plaster.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” I said, taken aback. “I can’t believe Jesse would do something like that.”
“And one of the floorboards in his office was pulled up.”
“Wow, I noticed the rug was pulled back, but I missed seeing the floorboard.”
“You were looking for Jesse, not trouble.”
“True. But I don’t get it. I can’t believe a burglar would go to all that trouble. It must’ve been Jesse. He had to have been really desperate to find something he lost. I wish he’d called me. He’s not that strong anymore.”
“Was he an angry man?” Eric asked.
“No. I mean, he went on a rant once in a while, but it was usually over a barking dog or something the town council did. He would never do anything violent, though, like pound his fist through a wall. Like I said, he wasn’t that strong.”
“It wasn’t done with a fist. Someone used a sledgehammer.”
I shook my head, perplexed. “What should we do?”
“We shouldn’t do anything,” he said tightly. “You’re going to take Jane back outside and I’m declaring this place a crime scene.”
* * *
“A crime scene?” Jane repeated, once we were relegated to the front porch and the police began searching Jesse’s home for possible clues. “But why?”
“Did you see the mess in there?” Had she been so distraught that she hadn’t noticed something so obvious? “Someone tore Jesse’s house apart. And now he’s dead. The police need to figure out what happened.”
Her eyes widened. “You think Jesse saw someone break in?” She lowered herself into the porch chair and absently brushed her hair back from her face. “That might’ve been enough to give him a heart attack. Do you think that’s what happened?”
“The thought did occur to me.”
“If that’s true, it means that he was literally frightened to death.” She stared at me. “That can’t be possible. It’s too awful.”
I couldn’t think of a thing to say that would make her feel better, so I just nodded in agreement.
“Besides, he looked so peaceful.” She cringed. “Oh, what a horrible cliché.”
I didn’t mention that I’d thought the exact same thing earlier when I first saw him.
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions until the police know something for sure.”
“I can’t sit here doing nothing,” she said, gripping her hands together.
“It’s just for a little while,” I said soothingly.
“Oh, don’t act so calm and collected,” she snapped. “You have a worse time sitting still than I do.”
I chuckled inwardly. At least she hadn’t sunk so deeply into despair that she couldn’t get riled up about something.
Jane and I had been best friends since kindergarten so we knew each other almost too well. She was right. Sitting out here doing nothing would drive me insane as quickly as it would her.
It probably wasn’t a good time to mention it to Jane, but I couldn’t wait to get together with Emily, Marigold, and Lizzie, and talk this awful situation out. Even in the worst circumstances, we could always come up with ideas to make things better. Maybe one of them would have a theory to offer. Would they agree that Jesse had been searching for something? Or had his house been burgled? By whom? Maybe the five of us could do a little snooping—I mean, investigating—around town to find out more. We’d gotten pretty good at it, thanks to my own run-in with crime a while back.
“I hate knowing that poor Uncle Jesse died alone,” Jane murmured. “Can there be anything sadder?”
I reached over and squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry.”
“I should call Mr. Bitterman,” she said. “That would give me something to do.”
The Bittermans owned the local funeral home and had been serving the dead people of Lighthouse Cove for three generations. Blake Bitterman ran the place now with his son, Bryce, who’d gone to school with us.
“Wait a few minutes before you call Bitterman,” I said. “Eric might want to bring in the county coroner.”
“But if he does that, it means he thinks Jesse was . . .” She pressed her hands over her mouth, unable to say the word.
We were both silent with our own thoughts for a moment, until I returned to the subject I’d touched on before. “Jane, you did see how badly the house was torn apart, right?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Yeah, I saw it. And I refuse to believe Jesse would do that to his own home. Sure, maybe he left the Sunday paper around for a few days, but that was about it. Most of the time, he was a stickler for neatness.”
“I know. And you didn’t even see the rest of the place. I walked down the hall, and all of the rooms have been searched. Someone was in a real hurry, because the drawers and closets and cupboards were all open and things were tossed everywhere. Eric told me that someone broke through the wall in Jesse’s bedroom and pulled up a floorboard in his office.”
“Who could’ve done that? Because it wasn’t Jesse.”
“Are you sure? What if he lost something? Maybe he was missing some important papers.”
“But why would he be looking under a floorboard or in the kitchen cabinets? I mean, there were spice jars and condiments on the floor. Jesse couldn’t have done that.”
She blew out a breath. “And seeing all that mess is why you called the police. Duh. Sorry about what I said earlier. My mind has been muddled since you called me.”
She still looked dazed. “So if someone else was in there searching for something, that person could’ve snuck up on Jesse.”
“Right,” I said. “Although he wasn’t easily scared, he could’ve been caught by surprise so badly that it gave him a heart attack.”
“What if the person knocked him out first and then started searching?”
“Saucy, sassy, and smart.”—New York Times bestselling author Nancy Atherton
“Suspenseful, intelligent mysteries with a sense of humor.”—New York Times bestselling author Miranda James
Award-winning writer Kate Carlisle worked in television for many years before turning to writing. Inspired by the northern seaside towns of her native California, where Victorian mansions grace the craggy cliffs and historic lighthouses warn fishermen and smugglers alike, Kate was drawn to create the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, featuring small-town girl Shannon Hammer, a building contractor specializing in home restoration. Kate also writes the New York Times bestselling Bibliophile Mysteries (The Book Stops Here, A Cookbook Conspiracy) featuring Brooklyn Wainwright.
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I really enjoyed this story. Although I didn’t read the first book in this series, A HIGH-END FINSH, I never felt lost or like I was missing anything. THIS OLD HOMICIDE was fast paced and entertaining. A good, tightly written mystery with plenty of suspects to make you wonder “whodunit”. Ms. Carlisle is a superb storyteller. Her descriptions of the quaint town of Lighthouse Cove, CA, and the beautiful Victorian homes it is known for, were very vivid and truly drew me in. My favorite part of this book is protagonist, Shannon Hammer. Her chosen occupation, a building contractor, is very refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love lead characters who own shops and restaurants, but this is a fun change. And while Shannon is a woman doing a “man’s” job, she keeps the girly alive by using pink tools, hard hats, tool belts, goggles, the works. Too fun. (No, she doesn’t make her male workers wear pink ;-) ) There is also a fun secondary story for fans who like a bit of a paranormal twist. I look forward to seeing how this will play out in future books. The only drawback in this book for me, was the over use of curse words. H*ll and a*s made several appearances, but the over use of the word d*mn because very distracting to me. One of my favorite things about cozies is the lack of cursing. I only bring this up because I know a lot of people who read my reviews feel the same way and I thought you would a heads up. However, if you can look pass this or it doesn’t make a difference to you at all, then please do get yourself a copy of THIS OLD HOMICIDE. You can pre-order your copy now for the January 27 release!
I received an advance copy of this book. I read A High-End Finish, the first book in the series, and loved it; so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this one before its official release. I was not disappointed. I love the location of the series, Lighthouse Cove, CA. Shannon is a great character and is well-developed. It's so easy to picture her and all the rest of the regulars. Her career as a the owner of a construction company is unique to cozy mysteries, but she comes off as strong and feminine. I began to suspect who the killer was before the final chapters, but the development of that person's plans and actions leading up to it was so well done that I had to keep reading to discover all that went before the murder. It was hard to put this book down until I got to the end.
Dollycas’s Thoughts Kate Carlisle has constructed another awesome mystery in the second installment of the Fixer Upper Mysteries. Shannon Hammer is a very strong protagonist with job that keeps her on her toes managing several different construction work sites all at the same time. The life of a General Contractor means a lot of time traveling between sites, a heck of a lot of paperwork and a slew of phone calls but Shannon also has her own set of pink tools and she is not afraid to use them. Mystery writer, Mac, has moved into one of the suites above Shannon’s garage and they are becoming a little more than chummy. Police Chief, Eric, is getting to know Shannon better too and doesn’t accuse of murder this time, but he does try to tell her to keep her nose out of his investigation. This is a cozy mystery so you know that is not going to happen. Neighbor Jesse must have been quite a character with his tall and not so tall tales. Jesse was her best friend’s Uncle and she had known him much of her life and he has a special place in her heart and that just drives her to find out who killed him and why. The author does any excellent job of storytelling. She drops a clue here and a clue there, hammers in a twist or two or three, and an extra little ghostly element along the way too, all to keep the reader guessing and fitting things together to solve the mystery right along with Shannon. We also get vivid descriptions of the house being renovated and having worked in home construction and remodels I love those parts. I guess it would be fair to say Kate Carlisle has nailed this story right on the head. I am looking forward to see what she has planned for the next Shannon Hammer project. I am sure she is already checking over the blueprints and getting the permits to bring us another wonderful mystery. a perfect escape
Kate Carlisle has spun another great mystery in her second in the new Fixer-Upper mystery series. Shannon Hammer is devastated by the death of her neighbor Jesse, who is also her best friend Jane’s Uncle. When she discovers his body her instincts quickly kick in and she knows foul play when she sees it. Carlisle does a wonderful job of giving the reader all of the clues but still allows the reader a surprise when you finally find out who done it! I can’t wait for the next in this series.
While i loved the character development and setting, I heard, "get to the point!" in my head more than once. I have hope that the next book in the series will be better because the first book was fantastic.
I was on the fence what to rate this one, I actually would give it a 3 1/2 star. I really enjoy Ms. Carlisle's books but this one I actually struggled with a little, don't get me wrong I still enjoy her style of writing it's just that this book seemed to have a lot of repetition in it, mostly the first half, such as he was murdered, she felt guilty, she didn't trust him, I felt like I was wading through sometimes. That being said I love Shannon, Mac and Eric, their humor and interactions I totally enjoy. I like Shannon's relationship with her father and her friends. There is a touch of paranormal in this book when her friend buys a haunted house, not much was mentioned with it I'm hoping that will be the next book. The mystery was excellent and took me awhile to figure out and towards the end of this book it becomes a real page turner as it starts to piece together quickly. I definitely will continue on with this series and see where it takes us.
Shannon's next door neighbor and her best friend's uncle is found dead. Shannon believes it is murder but others don't think so. Oh things happens to others that seem to be related. Shannon is determined to find out what happened to her neighbor. The twist and turns will surprise you. It is a very good read, you will enjoy it.
Another fun cozy mystery from Kate Carlisle. Shannon Hammer, a contractor, comes across another body. This time her beloved lifelong neighbor , Jesse, has been murdered. In the meantime, two gorgeous men seem interested in her and she feels conflicted: Eric, town sheriff, who I keep picturing as Alexander Skarsgard and Mac, the famous mystery author for whom she is about to begin working on remodeling the town lighthouse and accompanying mansion. The picturesque town of Lighthouse Cove, California is so delightfully described that I want to go stay at one of the local B&Bs. The mystery is well thought at and full of tension.
Another great series by Kate Carlisle! Book two was very good. There were a few questionable characters in this book to keep you wondering who really did it. I thought all along that the one who did it was the one but couldn't quite figure it out for sure. I really like Shannon and her friends. I will be looking forward to reading about her next adventure!
I've enjoyed this series from the author and look forward to the next book!
Really enjoy the characters in this series.
this is the second in this series,the Fixer Upper Mysteries, and it continues to entertain! If you enjoy cozy mysteries, you'll love this one.
I thoroughly enjoy Kate Carlisle books. This Old Homicide is no exception. A joy to read cover to cover. Ms. Carlisle creates worlds that are cozy to visit over and over again. Her books are very re-readable.
I love all of her books and have been a fan for many years and each book she writes, regardless of the series, gets better and better. If you love "Cozy" themed books, do yourself a favor and add this book to your book list!
Loved it, loved it, loved it! Looking forward to more in this series!
I greatly enjoyed A High-End Finish: A Fixer-Upper Mystery and was looking forward to the next installment in the series. This Old Homicide certainly did not disappoint. Ms. Carlisle continues to develop the characters introduced in the High End and adds more depth to the locale. Her characters are folks I would like to know and Light House Cove is a place I would like to visit. This mystery illustrates why Ms. Carlisle's books are always "keepers" at my house. Be sure to check out her Bibliophile mysteries also.
Love this series well written and fun to read. I also recomend other books written by Kate.
This Old Homicide was another great read by Kate Carlisle. I love the cast of characters, the twists and turns and everything else in this book. There was only one thing I didn't like, but that's because I am a big sissy when it comes to spiders. Shannon Hammer is a strong character.A couple of coincidences made this book even more enjoyable. My daughter's first name is Shannon and my husband is a construction superintendent, so I love that I understood what was being described in the book pertaining to the repairs and renovations. Fast paced, a roller-coaster of emotions and a great mystery made me stay up way too late reading this book, but it was worth every minute of missed sleep,
Crowded and no longer unique plus cozy where rehab their own place not a flip. quick reads are usually short reads had to get sample first to be sure had not read this before m.a.
I liked the first one a little better. She uses words like "icky".